We have previously shown that electronic devices can be used by people with relatively low visual acuity and contrast sensitivity. The aim of this study was to determine if people with visual impairment use smartphones to compensate their visual deficits.
An online survey was advertised to people with visual impairment using personal contacts, social media and online discussion groups. This survey was administered in two languages: English and Portuguese. The first author is fluent in both languages and ensured accurate translation. The questionnaire was designed to collect basic demographic information and self-reported cause of visual impairment. Participants were asked to specify whether they used smartphones, and if so which operating system they used, what they used the device for, and which accessibility functions they used.
In total 131 responses were obtained: 75 to the English and 56 to the Portuguese survey. 93% of the respondents were younger than 64 years and 25% had no perception of light. From the total number of 131 respondents, 101 used smartphone. Of these, 57% used an Apple OS, 22% used Android and 15% used Symbian. 98% of smartphone users made phone calls with their device and sending text messages was reported by 93%. Internet navigation was used by 84%, photo capabilities were used by 53% to help them to see and by 73% for other purposes. 80% also used apps on their device. Speech navigation was used by 67% of respondents, ability to enlarge print was used by 58% and a large screen was important to 40%. Font type and contrast changes were less commonly used. Only 14% received information about these devices from a vision care professional. Other sources included online search, recommendations from friends or blind associations.
Smartphones are widely used by people with visual impairment. The current accessibility features such as speech navigation and large print allow people with visual impairment to use of these devices not only as phones but also as an electronic low vision aid.
2014. Vol. 55, no 13, 4150